Two Calgary councillors are clashing over the city’s vision to reroute a river pathway through Chinatown in Ward 7, with one calling it “anti-car” ideology that will hurt local businesses and the other saying it will bring more customers that way while boosting safety.
Planned construction at the end of 2020, and flood mitigation along the Bow River Pathway in the Eau Claire area, will force cyclists, e-scooters and pedestrians onto nearby streets.
Instead of simply building a detour plan to take those users around construction, the city decided to do something more permanent along 3rd Avenue South between 1st Street S.E. and 8th Street S.W.
Coun. Sean Chu, who represents Ward 4 in north Calgary but has strong ties to the Chinatown community in Ward 7, said associations, residents and businesses reached out to him with their concerns for the plans and over fears their voices weren’t being heard.
Chu, who has long been one of the most vocal opponents of expansions to Calgary’s cycle track infrastructure, called the latest plan “anti-car” ideology and said that it’s a bad urban design that doesn’t consider businesses.
“Just look at the disruption happening on 17th Avenue all the businesses are facing,” Chu said.
The road runs through the communities of Chinatown and Eau Claire and it provides a link to the Bow River Pathway Network along with transit routes, local amenities and several businesses and residences.
The city says the path on Third Avenue is one of the busiest cycling routes in the city’s centre and the changes would aim to make it easier to walk and wheel along that corridor, to help to alleviate the strain on sidewalk capacity.
As CBC reported earlier, the plan is being split up in three zones, each with a number of options depending on limitations of the existing road. There could be a cycle track, or sharrow lanes (a combination of bike lane and arrows on the pavement). The city’s also looking at parking changes, like angle parking to increase capacity. Other plans include upgrading the sidewalks to make them more accessible, and adding pedestrian signals.
On the east side of the project, after Centre Street, one of the options includes turning 3rd Avenue into an eastbound one-way street to accommodate parking and cycling infrastructure.
But Chu said the plan, which is in the public consultation phase, has failed to “earn the support of the community,” in a letter he posted to Twitter.
“That’s why the Chinatown businesses and people there are very afraid,” he said. “They also felt, ‘why is this city continuously doing stuff to make us try to fight for our own survival?'”
For decades, he said Chinatown residents and businesses had been pleading with the city to increase parking in the area along with more pedestrian safety and that this plan could exacerbate the current issues.
Annette Fung, who owns and operates the Silver Dragon restaurant, earlier told CBC News that she is concerned taking away traffic will cripple her business, which has already suffered a number of blows before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Terry Wong, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area, said he’s heard similar worries from other business owners in the community.
Coun. Druh Farrell, whose Ward 7 constituency includes the affected area, says Chu’s objections show that he hasn’t done his homework on the issues.
She said the 5,000 or more people who use the Bow River pathway daily need a safe detour.
“This project gives thousands of future residents, employees, customers, and tourists more options on how to get around safely,” she said on Twitter.
Farrell said bringing those pedestrians, cyclists and scooter-riders down Third Avenue will generate new business for shops and restaurants in the area.
“And we can bring more customers to Chinatown and Eau Claire restaurants and shops,” Farrell tweeted.
“5,000+ new potential patrons will walk and wheel by our great local businesses daily. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses to get new money in their tills and new bums in their seats!”
The first round of consultation just started with another round slated for October.
With many stakeholders to please, the consultation for the 3rd Avenue walking and wheeling upgrades is going to be a tough balance.